May 25, 2004

Same Respect Karl Rove Commands

by PG

While normally the privacy of the friends and family of the famous should be as sacrosanct as our own, said friends and family may take actions that strip away their immunity. Willingly appearing on television, for example, constitutes a step toward becoming famous oneself, and of course once one is voluntarily famous -- I am here excluding unfortunates like Richard Jewel who had infamy thrust upon them -- one's privacy soon becomes a distant memory.

The standard lately applied to those in the president's private life appears to be that while the First Lady is a fair target, children should be left alone. On its face, it is a somewhat arbitrary standard; technically, aren't children a more accurate reflection of the parents than the spouse is? In practice, however, the wives of presidential candidates become diligent campaigners themselves, thus willingly putting themselves in the glare of the searchlight on their husbands and volunteering for some degree of scrutiny and criticism.

WWJD (What Would Jenna Drink?) jokes notwithstanding, with regard to the current First Family, this rule appears to have been followed by most journalists with pretensions to seriousness. Jenna and Barbara Bush have been permitted to enjoy their college years in relative peace, and as far as I know, have not been pestered by reporters who want to know their opinions on Dad's missing WMDs.

But that may change this year, despite the pleas of White House spokesman Scott McClellan. The Reuters lede captures it perfectly: "The White House asked the media on Monday to 'show respect" for President Bush's twin daughters as they emerge from private life as students to work for their father's re-election campaign.'

"Emerge from private life"; that phrase accurately encapsulates why the press may be tempted to alter their treatment of the Misses Bush. In working for their father's re-election campaign -- presumably in front of crowds, and not just blowing up festive balloons -- they are volunteering to become more public people than they were as students. Therefore, one might logically apply a different standard.

After all, to create family rifts by trying to get a quote from a Bush daughter that would dissent from Administration policy while she was essentially a private citizen would be extremely tacky. Exposing ideological rifts within campaigns, on the other hand, strikes me as within the bounds of polite journalism. I don't know how closely Al Gore's children hewed to his policy line, but during their public appearances on his behalf in 2000, it certainly would have been legitimate to query them about it. People who volunteer for campaigns should not do so lightly, even if the candidate in question is a parent.

May 25, 2004 09:11 AM | TrackBack

The sins of the father (or mother) should not unduly burden the children. If the children themselves sin, then they are fair game on their own. But children campaigning for their father in and of itself should not constitute a sin. Chelsea Clinton and the Gore children were not treated that badly; but they did not disserve voters. The Bush twins should be able to do the same without being slandered. There is just too much to say negatively about George W without spending time on the twins; they have enough of a burden already.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at May 25, 2004 11:33 AM

Bah, First Amendment law clearly covers the people as 'public' as the "first children." The fact that they will now be participating in the reelection campaign only further strengthens the purely legal case.

Morally speaking? Well... if they're going to campaign for their father who runs on a socially conservative Ozzie & Harriette type family platform, I think the kids drinking habits are fair game. Something about glass houses and stones.

Posted by: Brian at May 25, 2004 06:24 PM

What's this about getting stoned in glass houses?

If we pick on the drinking habits of the Bush twins, they might go on the wagon (or is it off the wagon?) and become just like their daddy and run for political office in Texas and then nationally. If someone is drinking and acting silly, that's better than if they are just plain silly even if they don't drink. I would rather give the girls the benefit of the doubt. Here's looking at them; bottoms up.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at May 26, 2004 07:05 AM

If we pick on the drinking habits of the Bush twins, they might go on the wagon (or is it off the wagon?) and become just like their daddy and run for political office in Texas and then nationally.

I believe a great jusrist once said: Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

Posted by: Brian at May 26, 2004 04:56 PM
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